Cabaero: Filipino patience being tested

Cabaero: Filipino patience being tested
Cabaero: Filipino patience being tested

From using water cannons to actually boarding a Philippine boat, confiscating firearms, and confronting Filipino Navy personnel in the West Philippine Sea, it seems there has been an escalation in maneuvers by Chinese troops against Filipino sailors.

However, the Philippine government’s response to the violence committed against our troops in this incident did not indicate any escalation.

I do not wish for the situation in the West Philippine Sea to become bloodier or for the territorial dispute with China to worsen. Nevertheless, there must be a non-violent but emphatic way for our government to respond to this and express our concern for the welfare of our Navy personnel.

Last June 17, Chinese troops drove away Philippine vessels that were on their way to bringing supplies to Ayungin Shoal, resulting in injuries to eight Philippine Navy sailors, including one who lost a finger. The Chinese called it Ren’ai Reef, their name for Ayungin Shoal. News reports quoted Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad as saying that one Navy sailor sustained a “severe injury” after an “intentional high-speed ramming” by the China Coast Guard.

According to an Inquirer.net report citing a Philippine Navy source, the sailors were injured during a confrontation with the Chinese who boarded one Philippine inflatable boat and seized their firearms. The Chinese troops were reportedly armed with sharpened weapons while the Filipinos fought with their bare hands. It marked the first time that China boarded a Philippine boat and conducted a search.

A coalition of activists opposing the Chinese incursions is calling for a strong response, the expulsion of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian. “We demand an immediate and strong response from our government, including the expulsion of the Chinese envoy to the Philippines and China’s surrender of its personnel responsible for causing serious harm to our frontliners and damage to our vessels,” Rafaela David, co-convener of the “Atin Ito” (This Is Ours) coalition, said in a statement.

Presidential Assistant on Maritime Concerns Andres Centino said that invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States has not been considered in Malacañang discussions on the incident. Under the treaty, the US will support the Philippines if it is under attack.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, for his part, said government has not considered seeking intervention by a higher international body. “That’s not yet into consideration because I think this is a matter that can easily be resolved very soon by us, and if China wants to work with us, we can. We’ll work with China,” Bersamin said.

It seems the vaunted Filipino patience is at play here with official statements remaining sober and measured. It could be a prudent move, considering our limitations in confronting or fighting China.

But there is a limit to one’s patience. Before it reaches breaking point, the government could escalate its response beyond hoping that China will work with us, to avoid further bloodshed and discord.

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